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Hunter applauds “Internet to Go” pilot program, hopes for expansion

Hunter-internettogoLow-income Chicago neighborhoods will soon benefit from a joint effort from the Chicago Public Library, Knight Foundation and Google to bring “Internet to Go,” a hotspot lending pilot program, to public libraries. Newly appointed Senate Energy Chair, Mattie Hunter supports the CPL’s efforts to close the digital divide.

“Increasing Internet access in underserved communities will help residents become competitive. People, especially young people and job seekers, need digital literacy to enter the workforce. I hope the Chicago Public Library, Knight Foundation and Google expand the pilot program into communities such as Englewood and Bronzeville.  I’m looking forward to efforts to bridge the technology gap in Chicago,” Hunter said.

The Chicago Public Library Foundation received a $400,000 grant from the Knight Foundation and a $175,000 contribution from Google to provide “Internet to Go” to three public library locations.

The pilot program includes the Brighton Park, Greater Grand Crossing and Douglass branches. The program will allow residents to check out Wi-Fi hotspots on tablets and laptops by circulating roughly 100 hotspot devices across the city.

If the program is successful, Hunter hopes that services will be expanded to include new South Side communities.

Silverstein: Ban alcohol powder

SilversteinheadSPRINGFIELD – A recently introduced proposal is aimed at banning powdered alcohol, a new product that last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved but then reversed its approval days later.

State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) introduced the proposed ban.

“When the FDA reneges on an approval, it’s a huge warning sign. Alcohol powder could lead to more cases of alcohol poisoning, abuse by minors and its potential use in date rape is alarming,” Silverstein said.

While the FDA’s reversed approval dealt with a specific product, Palcohol – powdered alcohol under the proposed ban refers to any powder or crystal substance containing alcohol. It is designed to be dissolved into liquid, but it can be eaten or snorted without mixing.

The proposal, Senate Bill 67, would prohibit the sale of alcohol powder or any product containing it.

Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont already have bans on powdered alcohol, and other states have started debate on legislation similar to Silverstein’s. Last year U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) introduced a federal ban.

Senate Bill 67 awaits debate in the Illinois Senate.

Jones: Don’t forget our youth when drafting the budget

Jones-rempl-picSpringfield – A recent study conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab revealed that an initiative pushed by members of the Senate Black Caucus resulted in lower violent crime arrest during summer months. The initiative is called the Youth Employment Program, and it provided jobs for thousands of at-risk youth during the summer months.

Participants held a variety of jobs, ranging from camp counselors to administrative aides. A majority of the participants were from neighborhoods where unemployment rates are over 19 percent.

“Providing our youth with alternatives to being in the streets is necessary to ensure the next generation has the chance to thrive,” said Senator Emil Jones III, Chairman of the Senate Black Caucus. “Moving into the next General Assembly, I hope Governor Rauner will take note and make funding for the program a priority.

Senator Jones believes that the summer jobs programs keep at risk youth from entering into the judicial system by having an alternative activity that helps them develop career skills.

“Housing an inmate in Cook County jail costs around $45,000 per year as opposed to the summer Youth Employment Program that costs around 3,000 per year per participant,” Jones said. “Summer employment saves taxpayers money in the long run.”

The program provided employment and job skills training for more than 1,800 youth who worked part-time at partnering local businesses, government offices and non-profit organizations.

“The summer months are primarily when we see a spike in crime across the city. If we want to see continued reductions in crime and create a stronger workforce, then summer youth programs are where we can get our highest return on investing in our youth,” Jones said.

A study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that violent crime arrests decreased by 43 percent for teens who were employed and received support from mentors.

“Violent crime is incredibly regressive in its impact—it takes the greatest toll on society’s most vulnerable,” said Roseanna Ander, Executive Director of the Crime Lab. “There is far too little policy and research attention, as well as, precious few resources focused on adolescents, especially those from disadvantaged neighborhoods who are really struggling.”

Morrison plans to use committee role to advance DCFS agenda

032113br0077rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) will serve as vice-chair of the Illinois Senate’s Human Services committee for the next two years, a position she intends to use to help get the troubled Department of Children and Family Services back on track.

“It seems like we hear new horror stories about DCFS every year,” Morrison said. “I’m committed to turning this important agency around, and I intend to use my new position on the Human Services Committee to help push forward an aggressive reform agenda.”

Morrison is planning to introduce measures to help protect abused and neglected children in the care of DCFS, partially in response to damning media reports that found hundreds of allegations that children in residential treatment centers are raped and assaulted by their peers while authorities fail to act.

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